The Battle of Antietam The Battle of Antietam The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862. The United States Army of the Potomac led by General George B. McClellan fought against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee. The battle was fought along the Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Both of the armies were densely concentrated in the Sharpsburg area, and it was a very bloody battle. The Union Army lost over twelve thousand men, while the Confederate Army lost around ten thousand men. General Robert E. Lee narrowly escaped defeat this battle and the lack of men cause him and his army to retreat back in to Virginia. Lee had good reason for wanting to bring Maryland into the Confederacy. With having Maryland, he would have good location to attack the major cities like Washington D.C.
and Philadelphia. It would also give him a chance to get to the rich farmland of the North that would give his army supplies of food. Lee split up his army of fifty thousand men, sending “Stonewall” Jackson to capture the Union arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He told James Longstreet to move north towards Hagerstown, Maryland. Smaller groups were left with the task of guarding against McClellans troops.
Even with all the planning, his adventure seemed to be doomed from the very beginning. The people of Maryland did not give Lee and his Confederate troops a happy welcome. Instead of being treated like heroes as Lee thought, they were treated like invaders. Even the secessionist from Maryland did not like the idea of the Confederacy invading their state. Lee was setback once again when a letter containing his plan of attacks and the locations of all Confederate troops were found by a Union private near Frederick, Maryland.
If McClellan had moved quickly, he could have easily crushed Lees army and ended the whole war altogether. But McClellan did not move quickly enough and within twenty-four hours, Lee learned of his danger and pulled his troops to Sharpsburg. On September 15, “Stonewall” Jackson captured Harpers Ferry and was moving to join up with Lee at Sharpsburg. When Lee arrived at Sharpsburg, he met Longstreet and, with their troops, they occupied a ridge overlooking the Antietam Creek. Later on during that very same day, McClellans troops, under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside came up and occupied the other side of the creek.
Longstreet was horribly outnumbered, almost five to one, but McClellan did not order the attack. Instead, he took an entire and studied the situation. During the time McClellan took to study the situation, Jacksons forces rejoined Lee, and another Confederate division under the command of General A.P. Hill, was moving to join Lee. On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg, began.
There was a massive attack of cannon and rifle fire. General Joseph Hookers men crushed the Rebel troops. Only a counterattack by a Texan force kept the Yankees from breaking the Confederate line. Hooker threw his troops up against the Rebels, causing heavy losses. Several hours later, General Mansfields Union Corps struck at Hoods men in the second Union attack. Mansfield was killed almost instantly, but that did no stop the fighting that just raged on and for hours the pattern attack and retreat was just repeated. Neither side seemed to get the clear advantage.
In the third attack of the day, General Sumners Corps found themselves caught in a pocket and in a matter of minutes, over 2,000 men fell to the ground. The fourth Union attack of the day, two other divisions of Sumners Corps were met by Daniel Harvey Hills troops at a suknen road in the middle of the Confederate position. Since this was the site of some of the most bitter and desperate fighting of the day, that area was called The Bloody Lane. The Union troops just kept on pushing forward and finally reached a position that overlooked the entire battlefield. At this point, McClellan had another chance to end the battle just by sending a large-scale attack from their high ground, but the call never came.
After trying to cross the creek over the bridge, which is now named after him, General Ambrose Burnside rushed the Burnside Bridge and captured it, only to find that most of the Rebels had withdrawn and gone to the hills above. He then gathered his troops and began to march on Sharpsburg. It seemed that his victory was inevitable because Lee had no more reserve units to stop him. But suddenly, A.P. Hill arrived with his men from Harpers Ferry and drove the Yankees back to Antietam Creek.
Because of Hills arrival, Lee narrowly escaped defeat. Because of the many men that were killed or wounded, the Battle of Antietam is called “the bloodiest single day of the war”.